I don't have high expectations for today's game against ucla. They have depth and experience while SC has very little depth and youth, which has made for some erratic play. I'm not into moral victories but I hope SC at least plays respectable. To some that could be considered throwing in the towel I call it being realistic.
All eyes will be on Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo, two of the most touted freshman in recent memory. Both have their individual styles that reflect her upbringing and life experiences but their genuine respect for one another, regardless of what some think, is what could make this rivalry a great one if both these guys stay after their first seasons at their respective schools.
"We had a squad, man," Mayo said with a laugh. "We could take on the Spurs."
Mayo also forged a friendship with Love, though their communication has been curtailed during the season. But he knows what to be wary of when the Trojans (10-6, 1-3 Pacific-10) meet the No. 4 Bruins (16-1, 4-0).
"He's still the same player, dominating the boards, putting the defenders at mercy with either shoulder, shooting over each shoulder, doing a great job with outlet passes and getting his guys transition buckets," Mayo said. "He does a great job."
USC is trying to maintain its focus and not allow all of the Mayo-vs.-Love hype to distract them.
It reminds me a little bit of Bird and Magic when I was a young adult, trash talk and competitive on the court with genuine friendship and respect off of it.
Both of these players have high expectations being placed on them. Love could be the final piece of the puzzle in Ben Howland's quest for ucla's 12th banner, a big man in the middle is what he needed in his last 2 two trips to the final four. With Love he not only gets that and more as Love is one of the better pure passers in the game.
Mayo's expectations are different but no less lofty; he is the first real blue chip recruit that SC has had on their roster in recent memory. Yes, the whole process as to how he came to USC is unorthodox at best downright puzzling at worst but he is the face of the program and we can only hope that his presence moves the program forward in regards to performance an exposure in the years to come.
There hasn't been this much anticipation over a game between these two programs in a long time and that has to do with all the hype surrounding both Love and Mayo since they both committed to their respective schools. The stakes couldn't be higher as both of these players are sure to go head to head at the next level.
However, for the first time today two of the most publicized freshmen in either program's history, USC's O.J. Mayo and UCLA's Kevin Love, will play against each other for real when the fifth-ranked Bruins host the Trojans.
Its too bad these two won't stay for the whole four years of their college careers as there would be some great match-ups.
The simple fact is these teams are on diverging tracks. Not that one is headed up while one is headed down although our rivals would be quick to point that out with SC record. But more in their make-up and personalities as teams take on the personalities of their coach, sometimes that's good sometimes not but that is how it is. One is looking to find its identity while the other is looking to complete it. USC is looking for its identity with all of the youth they have while also trying to make a name for itself on the national scene. That's tough to do when 70% of your scoring walked out the door after last season. There is a nucleus there of some impressive raw talent that just needs to come together but if Mayo bolts after this season that sets the process back considerably.
Regardless of where they are at SC needs to show its poise today as they will be playing in a tough atmosphere at Pauley Pavilion. As I have noted before I could care less about tradition I'm all about the here and now, to me PP is just another gym to play in and that is all this team should care about.
The Trojans could trot out a starting lineup that includes three freshmen to face the menacing crowd at Pauley Pavilion, not to mention a daunting lineup from No. 4 UCLA.
Yet win or lose, USC will have enough research to add to its Pacific-10 Conference thesis for 2007-08.
"If you thought you're a freshman still, you won't be anymore after that game," USC sophomore forward Taj Gibson said. "Because that crowd and being in that historical arena makes you a different player after you leave it.
Enough about "history and tradition" lets just lace `em up and play.
This ucla team is good enough not to need the lore of PP to help them win. and SC is brash enough not to let it intimidate them, sure the crowd will be crazy but they are no different that the crowds at Duke, Kentucky, or UNC, its just noise and you learn to filter it out. Heck, Texas went into PP and won, even one of the UT players was jawing with nuts in the bruins den so if you're in the right mind set it won't affect you.
SC needs to do a few things in order to make this game respectable:
- 1-Play some solid defense
- 2-Control the boards as best they can
- 3-Make quality shots
I anticipate some great match-ups today and it could be the sign of some great things to come so I am really looking forward to this game. It will be nice to see SC play on a major network so I hope that Mayo and co. will find a way to make a game of it and not be embarrassed but my expectations are that SC will have a tough time trying to keep up and ultimately fall short.
Lets just hope it will be respectable.